Recently there has been a dramatic increase in planting vineyards. At the last count, there were about 3,700 Ha under vine (up 80% since 2015) and 658 vineyards. Most of the grapes planted are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varieties. Typically vineyards tend to be in the South East although vineyards are everywhere. We were particularly struck by the ambition of Chateau Hebrides. Many vineyards are planted on chalk or greensand in virgin soil, and most vineyards are tended with great respect for the environment.
Naturally this boom has been prompted by England getting warmer. We now have a goldilocks climate for grapes: not too hot, not too cold. While other wine-growing regions are struggling to manage their viticulture in hotter temperatures, England enjoys a climate that is cool enough to retain acidity in the grapes which is so important for a zippy fresh taste and for bottle lees ageing. The gently ripening grapes slowly build up phenolics over the long growing season and taste absolutely delicious.
England currently produces about 15,000,000 bottles a year, of which about 70% are Sparkling wines. Almost all are made in the Traditional Method, which is appropriate given that it was the English who – copying the cider-makers – first made Traditional Method Sparkling Wine. So, its coming home, its coming home, its coming ….
English Sparkling Wine tends to be an artisanal product, crafted in boutique wineries, with smaller production figures than Champagne, Prosecco, Sekt, and Cremants. Its also the most exciting place to be making wine right now: quality is assured by the English Sparkling PDO regime, but there is still a little space for wine-making innovation. The wines are getting better and better.
We very much appreciated Nores’s invitation and the opportunity to share what is going on with the vines and wines of our green and pleasant land. We were very grateful for such a warm welcome from some fabulous friends and look forward to popping many corks together.